Taking your tablets abroad - do the stupid deserve everything they get?

21 April 2011

Data roaming on your iPad or tablet PC can be up to 1,000 times more expensive than equivalent 3G internet use in the UK, Which! has discovered - particularly outside of Europe.

Yes, it's news to us, too. No, wait a minute it's not at all. What's the opposite of news? Linkbait? PR fodder? Yes, it's that. While we love our friends at Which!, publishing damning research that using an iPad abroad can cost a lot of money feels like less of a story, more a statement of the bleeding obvious.

Bitterwallet - Bitterwallet on the iPadThe consumer champions use number-play to paint a dire picture of using tablets abroad: on the basis that a customer can purchase 1 GB of domestic data from Three, Which! then goes on to point out in countries like Canada, Three charges £10 per MB, meaning a bill of £10,000.
Now, while the figures are absolutely true, there are some common sense factors which have to be ignored. For instance, for a tablet owner to drum up such an extortionate bill, they must:

• be completely unaware that using data abroad incurs significant costs: this is incredibly difficult in 2011. It means a person has somehow dodged years of horror stories from friends, family and colleagues, and never once read a news story highlighting roaming charges.

• ignore all network and device warnings concerning roaming charges: unexpected holiday bills aren't anything new, which is why handsets at least are blitzed with texts from the moment you touchdown in foreign climes. Your network will warn you how much data costs, the native network will warn you how much data costs.

• be on a network that does not limit roaming charges: most network cap data roaming to avoid unexpected expenditure. In terms of tablets, Three caps roaming charges at £50, O2 at £40 - but then O2 doesn't allow tablets to incur data roaming charges. Orange doesn't allow data roaming on iPads.

The argument of whether roaming charges are too high and bear no semblance to the actual service costs is a separate issue. The issue is how detached from the world you have to be to use any data-intensive device abroad and not expect to incur charges. Short of prizing tablets out of stupid people's clammy hands at the airport, it's uncertain what else network operators can do.

We can't have it all ways - we can't piss and moan at operators about how we're all grown-ups when they introduce mandatory age verification on browsing, then protest when we choose to ignore numerous warnings and several years of marketing and media coverage when we choose to use devices abroad.

Is there more networks should be doing? Or should consumer accept some responsibility for their own actions?

TOPICS:   Travel   Gadgets   Privacy   Mobile

9 comments

  • james D.
    Also people could use wifi abroad.
  • Nick T.
    Shouldn't that be ¡Which!
  • klingelton
    A friend of mine recently returned from abroad to a bill of £500 with orange. I didn't immediately think "oh my lord, you must be kidding if they expect you to pay that!" Instead i thought "dumb cunt"
  • JohnR
    Should the consumer apply common sense? Yes. Are the costs charged by carriers fair? Absolutely not. I think you've missed the latter point somewhat. ZDnet summed it up well I think: http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/mobile-working/2011/04/21/tablet-data-roaming-sees-1000-fold-mark-ups-40092602/
  • Paul S.
    I've read ZDnet's article and I haven't missed the point - I wholeheartedly agree that the charges are excessive. The point above of the article is a completely different one, in that some people appear to ignore years of the issues being highlighted and the warnings they receive when they go abroad, so who is ultimately responsible in these instances? There's a consumer case to put to the mobile operators, but in the meantime it's not an excuse for stupid.
  • Mark H.
    A lot of people are new to mobile data. It's something they may never have used on their mobile phone but are just starting to make use of on their new shiny 3G iPad. The mobile companies should just start charging a fair price for their services and there wouldn't be a problem. They would most likely make more money that way too.
  • Noghar
    This is what happens when you market a device so intuitive any idiot can use one. Idiots use it.
  • Chris
    @Noghar Agreed!!
  • Linda C.
    Have just returned from a months cruise in the Caribean to a charge of over £10 on top of my usual fee of £15 On 3. I switched off roaming. And only used free wi fi. Have not received an explanation ?

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